VOICES: Romantic Identities: A voice on the spectrum
The subject of this interview requested to have their name changed for this blog.
The word “binary” appears frequently in the discourse involved with gender and sexuality. The majority of the discussion is based upon the idea that more people are challenging the idea of a gender/sexuality binary (male and female; gay and straight) and feel that both are on a spectrum. The wider this spectrum becomes, different identities begin to take shape, such as romantic identities. According to the University of North Carolina’s LGBT Center, romantic identities are described as “an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender(s) regardless of one’s sexual orientation. For individuals who experience sexual attraction, their sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often in alignment (i.e. they experience sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender(s) as the individuals they are interested in forming romantic relationships with)”. While many other sites include exhaustive lists, the UNC LGBT Center describes some of the most common romantic identities:
- Aromantic: individuals who do not experience romantic attraction toward individuals of any gender(s)
- Biromantic: romantic attraction toward males and females
- Heteroromantic: romantic attraction toward person(s) of a different gender
- Homoromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender
- Panromantic: romantic attraction towards persons of every gender(s)
- Polyromantic: romantic attraction toward multiple, but not all genders
- Gray-romantic: individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction
- Demiromantic: an individual who does not experience romantic attraction until after a close emotional bond has been formed. People who refer to themselves as demiromantic may choose to further specify the gender(s) of those they are attracted to (e.g. demi-homoromantic).
When learning about identities and different types of attractions, it’s important to note that orientation/attraction does not necessarily define one’s behavior. Because of this, it is important to ask someone how they identify (in an appropriate, safe way) instead of making assumptions based on how they act.
Tim, who identifies as asexual described situations when assumptions about romantic attractions cause difficulties. “Yes, I am asexual,” Tim* said, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t have intense, intimate feelings for my partner. I am demi-homoromantic and many people don’t understand what that means. It may take me a while to feel romantic attraction, but I get that through being emotionally connected to someone. Just because I don’t have sexual attraction doesn’t mean that I couldn’t love someone just as strongly as if we were physically intimate.”
Tim’s story is similar to many asexual and/or aromantic individuals. Tim* states that the best advice they ever received was about communication. “Just be honest about your boundaries and stay true to what your heart is saying. Don’t be scared if somehow your feelings or attractions may change; gender and sexuality and attraction can all be fluid in someone’s life and you should never feel like you have to stick to a label. Be yourself, be kind to others, and protect your heart.”